Source: Bills still deciding on Watkins' 5th year option

Team has until May 2 to make a decision for 2018

Sal Capaccio
April 13, 2017 - 3:34 pm
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The Bills have to make a decision on whether or not to pick up the 5th-year option on wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ rookie contract by May 2.  A source familiar with the situation has informed me the team has yet to make that decision and will be discussing it internally over the next couple weeks.

Watkins is under contract for one more season for a salary cap hit of $6.343 million.  If the team picks up his option, it will cost them roughly $13 million against the cap in 2018.  They could always pick up the option then reduce that number by working out a long-term extension, as well.

While exercising the option seems like a slam-dunk by most analysts and observers (and I still believe the Bills will ultimately do it), I’m told the reason the team has yet to decide is because the option is guaranteed against injury.  Since the Clemson product entered the league in 2014 he’s had numerous ailments that have kept him off the field.  He’s missed 11 games the past two seasons, including eight last year after breaking a bone in his foot and is currently recovering from a second surgery he had in January to repair that foot.

The front office and head coach Sean McDermott will meet with the medical staff to get an update on Watkins’ progress and outlook after taking part in rehab and conditioning with the team over the past two weeks.

Other than for injury, the option would not become fully guaranteed until the new league year begins in March of 2018.  So, if Watkins stayed healthy but did not perform to the level the Bills are expecting, they could withdraw their option to exercise and allow his contract to expire, or work out a new deal (which would be unlikely in that scenario).

If the Bills ultimately decide not to pick up Watkins’ fifth-year option because of the injury risk, and then he does play at a high level this season and the team wants to make sure the retain him, they would still have the ability to place the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next year.  The franchise tag amount for wide receivers this year is a guaranteed $15.682 million and will most likely be around $16.5 million or more next year.

 

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